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How To Guide by (2014-01-14)

The Hammer- A Brief Guide To The World Of Smashy Smashy

If you watched 2001: A Space Odyssey it's obvious why The Man had to take out Stanley Kubrick. He was a modern genius, one of the last great masters of Western Civilization, and without people like him around encouraging us to question our values it's much easier to kick off the Malthusian catastrophe that makes prepping insurance actually pay off. On the other hand he really liked hammers, monkey men, and space ships. Guys who like hammers are generally ok by me.

In the age of nail guns, sensitive electronics, genetic alteration, microwave mind control and thermonuclear warfare it's easy to forget about the need for less delicate and nuanced solutions. Somewhere deep inside our primitive minds we still understand this, and that's why every kid's first toolbox always includes a hammer. And a screwdriver. Which they will continue to use like a hammer for the rest of their life even though there is a perfectly functional hammer nearby but they are too lazy to go get it.

No matter where you are the need to smash something will always arise, and if you are ill-equipped for the task you will feel a sudden rush of heat in your veins. The hairs all over your body will stand up and bristle. Eyes will widen and lips will curl back to expose your canines, and the dormant monkey ancestor lurking just beneath the surface of your consciousness will momentarily take control. Without a socially acceptable outlet for violent and/or sexual frustration within close proximity this can lead to some very poor decision making.

Always have a hammer or something that works like a hammer, and try not to wake the monkey.

Hammers make the good things live and the bad things die.
Hammers make the good things live and the bad things die.

Traditional Carpenter's Hammer

If you go to any hardware store there will most likely be an aisle with several different types of hammers. You figure with all the hammers around there wouldn't be much of a demand anymore, but that's an incorrect assumption. According to research that I just made up right now the most common reasons for hammer replacement are breakage and suckage. I've busted wood, metal, and fiberglass handles as well as shattered/mangled several hammer heads and nail pullers. Do yourself a favor and buy one made out of the best materials you can afford, unless you think destroying crappy tools in front of your friends who don't know any better makes you look super-strong.

The most comfortable handle for me is wood. It's available with thick axe-handle contours, reduces stressful vibration, stays cool in the sun, and unlike other materials it doesn't add lots of weight or require rubber grips that feel like grabbing a fist full of stale gummy bears. The major drawback is biodegradability, so leaving it out in the elements is bad and no matter how much you baby it the thing will inevitably break. Fortunately with a quality head and some productive boredom it can be renewed.

Don't let the phrase “quality head” distract you. I'm about to recommend titanium, and this is the most important part (besides safety) so get your head out of the gutter and pay attention. It's my favorite metal of all, and while some people are convinced weight=power most of the work in nail hammering gets done with a flick of your wrist, not your whole upper body. With the right technique you can hammer all day without getting tired, have amazing accuracy, and drive big nails with fewer strokes. Good body mechanics is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience, so always do your research and watch some videos of how the pros do it.

Titanium is tough, lightweight, will never rust if it's the real deal, and unfortunately is getting more expensive all the time. I pondered buying a regular sized titanium pry bar a decade or so ago for $80 and now they don't even exist any more because nobody could afford it. Still kicking myself for that one, and even though some versions pop up from time to time on auction sites I wouldn't dare order one over the internet knowing how many junk alloy tools are out there which will bend and rust. Don't wait. If you are in the market for a hammer with a titanium head buy it now, and stick with the regular size unless you are using it for framing. Buying hammers is like buying shoes, so a trip to the store to check them for fit is crucial. Just don't leave your new super expensive hammer lying in the front seat of your ride on the way home when you stop to get groceries, because that's a lot of cry when someone who knows what it's worth breaks your window and steals it.

Specialty Hammers

Plenty of other hammers exist besides carpentry hammers, and it's critical that you choose the appropriate one for the job you are doing. Although not recommended, it's possible to Captain Caveman some wrinkled sheet metal away from your tire with a carpentry hammer and limp home after a collision. There is a reason these tools come with a warning label telling you to not do stuff like smashing two hardened steel hammers together. First it's kind of gay, and while I support your rights to equality and doing whatever you want in the privacy of your own garage it could end up in a nasty explosion of razor sharp shrapnel embedding deep into your eyeballs. Some people might call this God's Wrath for your choice of a blunt-end colliding lifestyle but they are jerks so don't pay any attention. If you refuse to wear eye protection consider studying Braille ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry during your transition to a dark new universe of helpful dogs, long stripey canes, and noticing smells that you wish you could ignore like back in the good old days.

Eye protection is also essential for hammering rock, concrete, and masonry. Consider a dust mask as well, since little airborne particles of stoney stuff that get in your lungs tend to stay there for the rest of your life. Rock hammers, machine hammers, and war hammers are all made with a specific hardness that compliments the materials they were designed for, so don't go mixing them up. Also think about application. A sledge hammer in a zombie head shot scenario might be spectacular, but if you miss then Johnny Rotting is going to have a snack at your expense because you can't redirect all that momentum quickly enough. Better to stick with a large straight claw framing hammer for a little more reach and less chance of getting stuck mid-lobotomy. Every tool for it's job.

Improvised Hammers

Like everyone and their trusty screwdriver, sometimes you don't have the right tool for the job and even end up in the unenviable position of being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with smashing something making all the difference between a good story for your friends or a truncated obituary. You gotta do what you gotta do, but before raising your selection of improvised blunt force please take a moment to consider what could possibly go wrong.

  • Gravity: smashing little things holding up heavy things can unleash kinetic forces that will squish you like a bug.

  • Size: smashing little things with little things (like a hammering a nail with the butt end of a knife) and missing can poke holes in your soft parts and turn your workspace into a part-time tetanus dispensary.

  • Wieldyness: just like language, using two things that don't belong together just because you're too lazy think of a better solution can promote all kinds of haphazard dangerous results that negate any progress you might have previously made. Also Grammar Nazis come after you in the comments section.

  • Breaking expensive stuff: who knows, if you survive maybe you can convince the manufacturer of your overpriced mall ninja multitool (basically an expensive screwdriver) that it was a warrantee defect and get it replaced for just the shipping cost.

  • Mental state: Say you are still angry about getting your titanium hammer stolen. It may be time to take a break and do some breathing exercises. The monkey is poking it's head above the surface. It's beady little eyes dart about, searching for gratification. If it jumps on top of the unsuspecting mother tapir as she tends to her cubs and beats her with a moldy tree branch maybe there's a leg bone full of juicy marrow in it for him. Most likely the situation will end up with a scared little monkey curled up in a ball and bleeding your blood, having dreams about flying space babies as the cold blackness closes in. Daisy, Daisy...



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